Monday, December 08, 2008

Is NBC about to make 10 o'clock the Jay Leno hour?

Oookay, this is just slightly jaw-dropping: NBC is on the verge of handing over the 10 p.m. timeslot, Monday to Friday, to Jay Leno. Some thoughts on the most unexpected chapter of the ongoing late-night wars -- or, in this case, primetime wars -- coming up after the jump...

I've been on record as saying that NBC was making a bad business decision to push Jay out the door so the could give "The Tonight Show" to Conan O'Brien. Even though I vastly prefer Conan's show, Jay is a proven commodity, a rare broadcast star in an age of ever-tighter narrowcasting. All along, NBC executives insisted they had a plan to somehow keep Jay in the fold even while giving his job to Conan, but I don't think anyone suspected they had something this radical in mind -- not even after Jeff Zucker said earlier today that he could envision a future where NBC programmed fewer hours per week in primetime.

Now, if the Leno deal happens (seems likely), and if he can bring his audience with him to primetime on a nightly basis (a big if), this could be a masterstroke by NBC. They keep Jay away from the competition, and they have fixed programming in the 10 p.m. hour, where they've been struggling recently, and where the networks have been struggling in general of late, since studies have shown that DVR users tend to use the hour to watch shows they recorded earlier in the evening. A Leno primetime show (shot in the traditional Burbank studio, but with a different name) with a stable audience would also be good news for the NBC affiliates, who make a good chunk of their money on the late local newscast. And even though Jay doesn't work cheap, I imagine that five nights of his show will still cost less than five nights worth of dramas.

But will people watch what sounds like it will basically be the Leno version of "Tonight" when it's on 90 minutes earlier, before it's time to get ready for bed? DVRs have rendered timeslots meaningless in many ways, but the late night shows seem more habit-driven than most. And does still having Jay on, doing more or less the show he's been doing for almost 20 years, in any way neuter Conan's big promotion to the 11:35 slot?

Whether it works or not, this feels like the latest in a long line of decisions by Zucker and Ben Silverman that are entirely about their failure as actual entertainment programmers. If Silverman had developed a single scripted success in his time at the helm, or if Silverman hadn't spent all his time either buying shows from his own production company or trying to recreate the NBC fall lineup circa 1983, then 10 o'clock wouldn't be such a disaster that they would need to plug Jay in five nights a week to potentially save their hash. This is yet another move along the lines of super-sized "Friends" or two-hour "Celebrity Apprentice." Even if it works, it's a Band-Aid on a very deep wound.


Alanna said...

I was about to ask how long the deal would be for, but the TVWeek piece says "multiyear". I can see NBC using this as a stopgap to shore up their scripted lineup, weeding out what doesn't work and consolidating the successes. But that doesn't appear to be the case. Huh.

NBC's flailing just makes me sad, because I've always had such a (perhaps undeserved) soft spot for it. And I realized tonight that the majority of the shows I make a point of watching each week are on NBC.

Anonymous said...

Agreed the wound is VERY deep. Deeper than even the huge failings of Silverman or Zucker--the truth is NBC hasn't created big hit in almost a decade! I think this could be okay in the short run (and certainly looks better than dropping 10 pm altogether) but it also seems pretty desperate and pretty short sighted. I think people might be okay watching Leno at 10, but will people then want to watch Conan and Jimmy Fallon later? Three talk shows is an awful lot. And what happens if the show is a flop? Or even if it's a success and Leno decides to retire in a few years? That leaves a lot of empty real estate.

Btw, Alan, I know this is somewhat off-topic, but since we're talking about the failings of an entire network, maybe you can address it here. I noticed that the CW11 has recently rebranded all of their news content to PIX11 and now redirects to Do you know what the reason for the switch was? I know there have been rumors the CW is in trouble, so is Ch. 11 preparing for the CW to cease operations in the near future?

Anonymous said...

Even if Leno brings his entire late night audience to his new slot, that still couldn't be enough to qualify as a success could it? Leno currently averages just under 5 million viewers on his show. Even with the money they'd presumably save on programming, would those numbers really be enough to justify the slot?

Adam said...

For what it's worth, Zucker considered giving Letterman the 8pm slot (except for Thursday, b/c of Friends) in trying to keep him after they handed The Tonight Show to Leno.

The network that put Law & Order, ER, Homicide:LOTS, Hill St. Blues and St. Elsewhere on at 10pm has given up.

J said...

Well, I know what network I won't be watching between 10 and 11 five nights a week.

Anonymous said...

Huge mistake. I know Leno has huge ratings, but NBC should be scared that no one has been able to explain WHY he has the best ratings. Every critic with a voice has panned his show since day one, and I've often felt that Leno benefitted more from the comfort of "The Tonight Show" rather than anything he himself brought to the table. Before this announcement I figured whereever Leno went he'd bomb because he'd lose whatever perfect storm he's had these past years (time slot?, history?, ???). It's very hard to strike lightning twice (especially when you don't have any talent).

Jerry Seinfeld used to say that he had to end Seinfeld himself otherwise, eventually, someone else would. You get your run, you make the best of it, and the good ones, the smart ones, get out on top.

Anonymous said...

Please, god, no.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about, Adam? Zucker wasn't in charge of NBC back when Letterman was still there and all of that happened before Friends was even on the air.

Adam said...

as Bill Carter reported in 2002, so my timing was off:

"Long before David Letterman was courted this spring by ABC, which tried to to lure him from CBS, he had another suitor, one that was only too familiar and only too resonant of what might have been.

"NBC, the network Mr. Letterman left in 1993 after losing out to Jay Leno in the quest to succeed Johnny Carson at ''The Tonight Show,'' made a serious approach to bring Mr. Letterman back beginning last July. But the plan was not to install him in the ''Tonight'' chair, which is still occupied by Mr. Leno. NBC's idea was to give Mr. Letterman a prominent spot in its prime-time lineup: the slot from 8 to 9 p.m. every weeknight except Thursday, when the hit ''Friends'' is broadcast.

"Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Entertainment, who came up with the plan, declined to comment. But Rob Burnett, who heads Mr. Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, confirmed that Mr. Zucker spoke to him in Los Angeles last summer, laying out the plan. "

[But I could swear there's something in LATE SHIFT as well. Will check.]

Anonymous said...

My Own Worst Enemy (DEAD), Law & Order SVU, Law & Order, Er (which is over), and Dateline.

The way their line up is now, this experiment can't really hurt, eh?

Anonymous said...

This news just makes me so sad. A once great network is grasping at straws and IMO, significantly besmirching the NBC name by airing Leno in primetime 5 days a week.

Alan, you are correct in pinning this gamble on the failed efforts of NBC execs to program interesting and creative shows throughout their lineup. This new move is groundbreaking, but not in a good way.

Nicole said...

It may be crazy enough to work. I won't watch it, but Leno's audience is getting older, and not having to stay up past the news to watch him may get him a big chunk of the over 50 crowd. Advertisers may not value that segment as much, but I could see my parents watching Leno at 10 pm, since they don't stay up later to watch him now. And they do have a DVR, but don't use it obsessively.

Also, stars who have movies to push would definitely like the prime-time exposure as compared to the smaller late-night crowd.

I find variety shows less offensive than most reality shows out there, so while it's not scripted entertainment, it may still get an audience.

Undercover Black Man said...

Blurg, glad you mentioned "Dateline." Wasn't NBC programming, like, four nights a week of "Dateline" back in the '90s?

Anyhoo, this is a shocking developing... but only momentarily so. The television landscape that we all grew up with has been rapidly mutating for a while.

When cable got big into the TV-drama business, I stopped fighting change and just went along for the ride. My own viewership habits are part of the story, with primetime every night devoted to MSNBC and Anderson Cooper (when I'm not on the Internet).

I don't watch Leno anyway, so it matters not to me. But I have fond memories of Merv Griffin at 9 p.m. That show seemed so sophisticated... and it worked at that time of night.

Bobman said...

I know Leno has huge ratings, but NBC should be scared that no one has been able to explain WHY he has the best ratings. Every critic with a voice has panned his show since day one, and I've often felt that Leno benefitted more from the comfort of "The Tonight Show" rather than anything he himself brought to the table

I'm not a huge fan of Leno's either, but I also don't have nearly the contempt for him that you seem to, or even that some critics seem to. I'd argue that he's popular because he's a down-to-earth, inoffensive normal guy who has a talk show. People who watch the 11:30 shows are usually just people going to bed who want something easy to watch, and Leno, for his faults, is easy to watch. He may not be very funny, but he just seems like a decent guy (and by most accounts is). Whereas you look at his competition, who is much funnier, much edgier, but also comes off as a self-important jackass sometimes (and by most accounts is) and has never quite seen Leno's ratings. I don't think it's a coincidence.

That being said, I don't think the 10PM move will be kind to Jay, as he'll lose that "going to bed" demographic. But who knows?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a disaster to me, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't get ratings, I guess.

The real loss is the possibility of groundbreaking adult-oriented 10:00 dramas. Sure, most of them are now found on cable channels, but, as someone else pointed out, that timeslot once regularly featured shows like St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Homicide: Life on the Street and even E.R.

Now it will be nothing but Jay's lameness?, and a fifty percent increase in that kind of programming on the network? Not for me, thank you.

R.A. Porter said...

Makes perfect sense. Cheap, it gets NBC out of the business of producing adult content and whining about how they're not as free as the cable networks anyway, and if/when it fails, Silverman will make three, four, or more cheap spinoffs of The Office (with no regard to quality) and sell them to himself.

NBC is now down to two half hours a week in my world. I know others watch a few more of their shows, but I find I can very easily do without them. I can find better programming elsewhere, or just read a book. NBC is irrelevant. NBC is less relevant than the CW.

Nicole said...

My initial thought was that Leno at 10 would poach Conan at 11:30, but I'm thinking about how many people (justifiably) love Conan. I think they are two different audiences, strange as it seems since they are the same format of a show. I wonder if Fallon will be the big loser--except that I wouldn't think he'd be hugely successful anyway.

Anonymous said...

Letterman did beat him in the ratings, up until that Hugh Grant interview, and then Leno took over and never relinquished the crown. And while I understand the "down to earth" nice guy persona of Leno, I've never understood why that translates to viewership. I think most people watch late night television to laugh and see celebrities. My roommate in college watched Leno because, night-in and night-out, he had better guests (due to celebs living in LA and not having to travel to the show).

I just think that if Leno has to concede guests to the Tonight Show so that NBC can maintain its flagship late night programming, Leno's going to suffer because the man has no substance of his own.

And I think I have every right to have contempt for the man. Leno used to actually be a funny stand-up comic, but then he latched on to this milquetoast brand of television that got ratings but lacked in everything else. And he did this deliberately. While other talk show hosts have tried, as you say, to make edgy or original, interesting shows, Leno has stated he views his role as just some guy occupying a chair, directing pretty people in and out of the set. Considering what the Tonight Show used to represent to Americans (not to mention what Leno did to Carson and Letterman to get the job) I think people have a right to be upset with what he represents.

Remember, ratings do not equal quality. I think this move will go the way of the Friends spinoff, Joey. A bad idea based on a misunderstanding of the marketplace.

Anonymous said...

Love it.

In one fell swoop, this solves all of NBC's woes but one- their inability to make & market a good scripted show... but I wasn't expecting them to solve that one any time soon, anyway.

Variety says that drops their weekly 10pm costs from $15 million to $2 million, and provides 46 weeks of original programming a year. For that kind of savings, they can afford a drop in viewers- though as low as their current tallies are, the drop may be negligible, or even non-existent.

On the other hand, this is absolutely the kiss of death for Friday Night Lights. NBC just plain won't have slots they need filled.

Anonymous said...

Well, I know what network I won't be watching between 10 and 11 five nights a week.

Same here. Frees me up to try more ABC and CBS shows. Or not. But it still frees me up!

This is a terrible, short-sighted move, I think.

Anonymous said...

R.A. Porter - "Silverman will make three, four, or more cheap spinoffs of The Office (with no regard to quality) and sell them to himself."

You know what would be a great idea? Make an Office spinoff of Michael, who's bordering on a cartoon character, and let the rest of the cast remain on The Office while getting back to some normal, real world storylines. While NBC would never do this, this split would actually make sense (Michael has done enough to get fired) and would let the current bipolar nature of the show be divided equally.

Anonymous said...

This is definitely the kiss of death for any on the bubble shows.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Conan is furious?

He inherits "The Tonight Show" title, but the guy whom an entire generation still associates with "The Tonight Show" is still on the air, on Conan's network, and in a time-slot that traditionally gets a lot more viewers.

NBC sucker-punched him!

Anonymous said...

Terrible, terrible idea. Conan must be furious.

Anonymous said...

Ha, jinks, Tyroc!

That's exactly my thinking, that Conan got the Tonight Show, but then sorta didn't now.

What a mess of a network.

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating turn of events that I hadn't even considered.

Agree with you, Alan, that NBC made a huge blunder in letting Leno go to keep Conan. It was a slap in the face of Leno, who had been a solid performer for them in the post-Carson era. I like Conan, but if he wanted to go, they should have let him go. Conan is going to be severely restricted in the earlier slot. This will not be his show but his take on an existing show.

Letterman would have had the same problems if he waited to get "The Tonight Show" instead of branching out on his own with CBS. Great move for Dave, silly blunder by NBC, snub for Jay, theoretical plus for Conan.

NBC is becoming as much of a joke as the CW. It's sad considering it's storied history in the 80s and 90s.

I thought they might come back again as they did in the intervening years between "Cosby"/"Cheers" and "Friends"/"ER". Now I am not so sure.

afoglia said...

This is a good idea from NBC, but as you point out, that's only because they're doing so bad that they're desperate. Zucker has been nothing but bad for NBC. I have no idea how he was promoted to head all of NBC Universal. He has to have incriminating photos of Immelt.

Anonymous said...

I also believe the key difference between Letterman and Leno ratings happened because of guests. Not that you can compare the guests on a daily basis, but the difference in guests over a long time-period (due to Hollywood being local for Leno) helps create habits which are long-term.

Pope JP the Best said...

This makes a lot of sense to me, actually. I don't think it's a good thing for the network in the long term, but for now, and especially considering that NBC is but one piece of the General Electric company, it makes sense.

Someone above mentioned that it normally costs $15M for a week of primetime dramas, and that Leno's show will only cost $2M. This math was corroborated by the New York Times (using the assumption that each episode of a scripted primetime drama costs $3M to produce). So that's $13M every week for 52 weeks a year, or $676M. Being conservative, and taking just 2/3 of that amount into consideration, comes out to $450M. So this change saves GE half a billion dollars -- which means that it'll be saving a lot of jobs at GE Capital, helping to preserve the company's dividend, and so forth.

But it's more than just financial. NBC has had a pretty terrible track record of putting worthwhile product on at 10PM. This couldn't be worse than My Own Worst Enemy, right?

Also, as Alan, I believe, pointed out, the growing use of DVR decreases the importance of timeslots. If NBC puts out a solid show and markets it well (a big if on both counts, I realize), then it doesn't matter if it's on at 9PM or 10PM.

Finally, I don't think Conan has much to worry about. People are still going to watch late-night TV as they go to bed, and lots of people love Conan. I can't imagine Leno at 10 cannibalizing any of Conan's viewership.

The real trick would be for NBC to reallocate some of the funds that would have gone to the primetime slot to producing some watchable shows for the 8-10 block.

Sorry if that was a bit rambly...but all in all, this certainly seems to make good financial sense. If NBC can use its savings to create some worthwhile shows, and do a better job of promoting what will now become a smaller sampling of scripted programs, this could work out well.

Unknown said...

Someone above mentioned that it normally costs $15M for a week of primetime dramas, and that Leno's show will only cost $2M. This math was corroborated by the New York Times (using the assumption that each episode of a scripted primetime drama costs $3M to produce). So that's $13M every week for 52 weeks a year, or $676M. Being conservative, and taking just 2/3 of that amount into consideration, comes out to $450M. So this change saves GE half a billion dollars -- which means that it'll be saving a lot of jobs at GE Capital, helping to preserve the company's dividend, and so forth.

The math is wrong there. Remember most primetime shows only have 22 episodes a season.

So the cost for 5 nights of primetime dramas is 330 million unless they plan to add summer series.

Still a big savings, but I can't see how this will help them long term.

If I was Fox i would look into possibly expanding hours

Anonymous said...

Intriguing idea but will this help or hurt the affiliates 11p Newscasts. The other important question to ask from the advertising side is will advertisers give the show a Prime CPM (Cost Per Thousand) or a Late Fringe one. My hunch tells me the latter.

Since an 11p News is far more valuable to a local affiliate at 10p than 11p, I would not be surprised to see the affiliate board push NBC to air Leno at 10:30p so the afffils get a 10p News.

Anonymous said...

Tyroc, you mean NBC Zucker-punched him.

Anonymous said...

So 4 hrs. of late night talk shows on NBC? Leno then Conan then Fallon then Daly? Haven't they ever heard of saturation?

Anonymous said...

Wait.... Does this mean that NBC wont be renewing 5 hours worth of scripted shows next year? This is not good at all. At least save Chuck and The Office...

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what happens with the 8-10 hours.

With the general crappiness of repeat viewing numbers on NBC (and for most TV shows tbf) it would free up a lot of money to go with practically a no repeat 40 something week schedule.

One thing that would be great, is it would allow for some very creative programming in Leno's off weeks.

You could effectively have UK TV style mini-series/events like a Prime Suspect, which could air over 4 or 5 nights. It is the perfect marriage of serial and procedural television. It could come in a few variations, the 'Prime Suspect' type, where it is essentially a franchise where you get 5 or 10 hours of real quality a year, or a one off in the vein of last year's 'Five Days' on BBC.

Matt said...

Actually, NBC (sadly) still has plenty of schedule space to fill, even with this. The "lockdown" schedule is:

Sundays--Football (fall), completely open (4 hours!) in Spring
Mondays--8 PM open, 9 PM Heroes, 10 PM Leno
Tuesdays--8 PM I assume Biggest Loser is safe, 9 PM SVU, 10 PM Leno
Wednesdays--8 PM open, 9 PM, they've already agreed to L&O: Mothership for another season, 10 PM Leno
Thursdays--Leno replaces ER at 10, and the Amy Poehler show replaces Kath and Kim and/or Earl, but otherwise unchanged.
Fridays--3 Hours open
Saturdays--3 hours open

Yes, some of that time is going to get filled with Deal or No Deal, Dateline, and reruns, but they still have 12 empty hours of primetime to fill next Spring--I don't think they have that much in their development slate, so some bubble shows are going to get in--extra points for being cheap and/or critically acclaimed. which actually might bode well for FNL, which is both, especially since they're apparently chopping even more cast at season's end.

KendraWM said...

I really do not see how this is going to draw more viewers, I am 36 and no one I knows can stand watching him. If we do watch him, it is only to tune in and see how correct Best Week Ever was in guessing his opening monologue jokes, and they are almost always correct or their jokes are so close to his it is funny..... scary that Jay is so predictable that a Vh1 shows predictions of his monologue jokes are usually funnier than his.

I tune in now for the L&O and have no desire to tune in to see Jay, at any hour.

R.A. Porter said...

Here's another facet the short-sightedness: since NBC buys so many shows from its own studio, any cost savings - considerable, apparently - they see in the near term is going to be offset by massive losses of long-term revenue. They can't syndicate or DVD-wrap this new show. It's got no shelf life.

Put one or two scripted shows at 10pm of moderate quality, keep them on the air for three years and that makes back the development costs for studio arm. This is corporate a-synergy on a par with the stuff DC comics does to cut the legs out from under WB.

Matt said...

The thing is, they don't think it'll draw more aggregate viewers (and certainly not more viewers in the key demo) than other programming. They're looking at the viewers/cost ratio. An episode of Leno, even with Leno's insane contract, will apparently cost less than $500K to produce. An episode of an hour drama? $3M. So even if they draw only 1/6th the viewers of NBC's current 10 PM programming, they're coming out even on that metric.

I think this really opens the door for Fox to move into 10 PM if they want to. NBC and CBS have now both basically ceded the 18-49 demo at 10 PM, and that's Fox's sweet spot. They certainly have enough programming that they could put there. (For instance, I'd be interested to see if 24 could finally take down CSI: Miami at 10 on Mondays.)

Anonymous said...

Amazing how Conan is following in the footsteps of his comic idol, Letterman.

First he's blindsided by Leno and NBC. Now he's part of an awkward NBC scheme to hedge their bets by keeping both guys around for as long as possible to see how the ratings winds blow.

Conan will start the Tonight show already with a clock (18 months?) over his head. If his ratings drop, Jay will be able to "come home" to 11:30 in a heartbeat.

Will they be in the same Burbank studio competing for guests, crew, parking spaces?

I think Bill Carter's book publisher is on the phone.

R.A. Porter said...

@Don Draper hits a point that a lot of people are missing with the straight cost-of-production comparisons. If it costs ~1/6 to produce but generates only ~1/3 of the ad revenue it's not as great a savings after all. Add in those long-term losses due to no syndication and no dvd sales and this could be an extremely expensive mistake.

And of course the loss of NBC's prestige.

I think had NBC given Leno *one* night with 90 minutes or two hours, he probably could have had some small success reviving the mixed talk/variety format. That would have looked bold and innovative instead of desperate.

Anonymous said...

If NBC can use its savings to create some worthwhile shows, and do a better job of promoting what will now become a smaller sampling of scripted programs, this could work out well.

That's a big IF, given how crap their schedule has been for years now, plus having Zucker and Silverman still in charge.

@Matt, Mondays at 8 isn't open, that's the slot for "Chuck." Don't tell me different because I can't hear you, la la la la la....

@R.A. Porter, what did DC comics do "to cut the legs out from under WB"? Thanks!

R.A. Porter said...

@dez, from the small - announcing the cancellation of the "Blue Beetle" title the same week Batman: The Brave and the Bold premiered on Cartoon Network featuring Blue Beetle - to the large - being unable to produce a Batman book that appropriately matched the tone and direction of the film series.

Marvel managed to capitalize on Iron Man with a few new series, but DC has been relying on its existing fanbase without trying to expand.

Anonymous said...

do viewers really want to sit thru leno interviewing guests, a break for news, and Conan and Fallon interviewing guests? How much of that can we take? Will NBC become Interview TV?
I understand the business side, but from a practical standpoint, it seems set up to fail right from the start.

Anonymous said...

I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said, but will note that Jimmy Fallon is moving Late Night into Studio 6B at 30 Rock (former home of channel 4 news), not the current Late Night studio (6A). More interestingly, THE ROOTS will be his house band.

This now gives NBC 4 hours of prime time and late night talk shows (Leno at 10, Conan at 11:30, Fallon at 12:30 and Daly at 1:30.) That's a lot of gust chairs to fill. (And 5 hours less of NBC product to push.)

If they were giving Leno a weekly show or even 2 hours per week, it wouldn't reek of desperation in the way that these 5 nights per week seems to.

Unknown said...

So if the plan was to keep Leno as a talk show host all along, why not put Conan in the 10 p.m. slot? Also, what happens if Leno tanks in the ratings? Now NBC suddenly has to fill five hours a week instead of only one hour if a weekly show fails. It's all insane.

Anonymous said...

@ R.A. Porter. It is one thing using some synergy, like Marvel did with the black spidey suit areound the release of Spiderman 3, but it is a completely different thing to change editorial stance based on porperties that only develop every 3 years in the movie world. It would be like the Star Wars extended universe, where nothing is canon except the movies, and people would just quit the direct market. You would be treading water and everything would be ret-conned every couple of years.

Where you need synergy is at the bookstores. Releasing trades and graphic novels that feature the characters in a relatable way without cowtailing explicitly to the continuity of film/tv/comics. I think DC does that with their books that are directly tied to the WB cartoons and with graphic novels like the recent Joker graphic novel, where he was clearly more in line with the Dark Knight character.

If anything, Warners is doing DC more harm. Yes they aren't profitable by virtue of comic sales alone, but they would make a mint in licensing if independant. If all their properties weren't confined to the one studio, particularly the Vertigo work, they would have had many more films made than they have already (though keeping the good stuff away from Fox is no bad thing).

Any way, this was hella OT.

Matt said...

I was only listing things that are absolutely safe. The other thing is this opens the door to NBC doing more straight no-repeat runs of stuff. (E.g., two shows sharing a slot with an 11/11/11/11 split so both get a full season, with the remaining 8 weeks filled with special programming/repeats.)

Unknown said...

I knew this blog would be off the hook filled with comments and opinions of different types. i haven't seen a debate this heated since Rosie O'Donnell and Tom Selleck!
I think everything has been covered. After a while i have the feeling that all the hubbub on how radical this is will dissipate sooner than later. It will all just make people watch cable shows on FX, TNT, USA, AMC, and so on.
Dying to know what the other networks are thinking about this move!

Anonymous said...

Whatever you think of Leno as entertainment, I still don't think this makes sense in the long run for NBC. Even if this works as far as decreasing costs and generating enough ad revenue to make a profit, if Leno brings in less than 5 million viewers, he won't exactly be highly rated in prime time---50th ranked maybe? Also, being at 10pm he's certainly not helping to build or provide a lead-in for any other shows. He also could potentially dilute Conan, who they want to establish at 11:30. Seems like a bad move all the way around, except for saving a little money on production in the short term.

Unknown said...

I forgot to add to my previous post that locally it's being rumored that the local NBC affiliate is just thinking of scheduling the local news at that hour. I wonder how many others are pondering that very move.

Anonymous said...


Please read my comments. This conversation continues to revolve completely around NBC, with absolutely no mention of the affiliates. In many of the 210 TV markets in the US, the NBC affiliate is NOT owned by NBC, so keep you eye open to stories coming regarding the affiliate board acceptance.

CM said...

I can't be the only one who goes to bed at 10-something? Having a "late night" show at a time that, for people like me, is actually late, sounds like a good idea rather than some hefty drama that I'll fall asleep halfway through.

Anonymous said...

I understand how Leno at 10 costs less than scripted TV, so fewer viewers isn't that big of a problem. But how does this affect advertising? Somebody here probably knows more about the ad-game than I do (MadMen doesn't count), but I would think this move turns NBC into a small-time player in luring big time clients. Companies only care how many people will be watching their commercials on your channel, not how that benefits your cost structure.

Oh, and about the DVR thing. I get recording scripted shows, but does anyone bother recording talkshows? Especially ones as banal as Leno (how often does something happen on his show that people are talking about the next day and you feel like you missed out if you didn't se it)?

Anonymous said...

There's nothing on at 10 that people will get in arms about Leno replacing.

Plus, its a huge cost-cutting measure for the network.

Does it suck for us the viewer? Of course, but that's just the world we live in now.

Anonymous said...

James Poniewozik at brought up the points I wanted to make. Namely, this move seems similar to the Couric to CBS move. And the big, What If?, as in, What if this doesn't work? You're eliminating 5 hours of primetime scripted TV every week for one show. If that one show bombs where do you go?

Anonymous said...

Dying to know what the other networks are thinking about this move!

They're probably laughing up their sleeves.

@CM, I also go to bed early, but I'm one of those who DVRs my 10 p.m. shows and switches to the local news to catch up on a few of the day's breaking stories before falling asleep since I usually miss the 6 p.m. newscasts. Even if Letterman was on that early, I'd probably ignore him in favor of the news.

@anonymous 1:46 p.m., I only DVR Letterman and Conan when they have a guest I like on (or when they're doing something special, such as when Letterman went on a tear about McCain canceling on him or Conan with his laser light show). Having them on earlier wouldn't do much for me, and I like them!

Anonymous said...

OK, I guess I'm officially old. I usually watch the first 20 minutes of Leno, up until the first guest, so having him on earlier will be great. In bed right after the news. (I'm in the Los Angeles market, so all our network-affiliate late news is on at 11.) I'm not a big fan of Conan, so I wasn't planning to continue watching the "Tonight Show" when he took over. With Leno taking the 10 p.m. slot, it means fewer "Seinfeld" reruns on the local channel. (No DVR in our house yet, but we catch HBO and Showtime dramas on demand.)

Anonymous said...

I am 44 and despise Leno. Can't watch him for 5 minutes. I do, however, TiVo Conan, Daily Show and Colbert every night. I do go to bed at 10 and I watch those shows first thing in the morning, works out perfectly. Oh and I am a woman - so stick that in your demographic pipe and smoke it NBC.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Chicago, I can say that many people in the Central time zone are incredulous that people really watch TV until 11 or 12 every night. We grew up on 10 o'clock news and 10:30 Tonight Show. This may benefit the coasters who want to go to bed early, but for the mid-section of the country, Jay will now be on at 9 pm every night.
Personally it seems all about money to me, which is what our society has been about for a while now (always?). I heard that this was done to stave off NBC having to turn over these hours to the local markets, which once done, they would never be able to get back if the company gets on a better financial footing.

Anonymous said...

I understand how Leno at 10 costs less than scripted TV, so fewer viewers isn't that big of a problem. But how does this affect advertising? Somebody here probably knows more about the ad-game than I do (MadMen doesn't count), but I would think this move turns NBC into a small-time player in luring big time clients. Companies only care how many people will be watching their commercials on your channel, not how that benefits your cost structure.

Great question and according to an article today at Broadcasting and Cable, "Primetime broadcast network programming commands a cost per thousand (CPM) price of around $30 while late night airtime is discounted by as much as 30%." Sports, followed by Prime have the largest CPMs. Advertisers will not consider this a prime show (even though it airs in prime). At least that is the stance they will take during the upfronts. To read more about the advertisng agencies reactions, check out

Anonymous said...

A few points:

1. What is this, really? This is NBC/Universal giving the WGA the big fat middle finger one year after the strike. Neither the ratings nor the programming quality has recovered since, and this is a major move in a strategy to fundamentally alter the nature of broadcast network TV away from scripted shows. It's going to be reality, sports, 'Events', and cheap talk/variety to fill the gaps, if they have their way.

2. Don't shed too many tears for Conan O'Brien. Leno was a huge albatross regardless, and this situation works better for him than having The Chin on ABC directly opposite the Tonight Show.

3. As for demographics...what 18-49 year old with money to spend is watching TV at 10 pm, anyway? (That's NBC's thinking.) Expect to see a lot more prime time Viagra ads than you're used to seeing.

Anonymous said...

^If I didn't have to get up at the asscrack of dawn, I would watch my 10 p.m. shows at 10 p.m. instead of time-shifting.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone a scholar of Old Time Radio? Because that was the last time the commercial market for dramatic programming died for the broadcast networks.

I've been listing to's store of CBS Radio Workshop episodes. They're like HBO, specifically targeted to the highbrows, with lowbrow highlights, to amuse.

Funny how both the late radio and early TV content split up almost exactly into specialist dramatic programming and populist reality programming (the game show boom began on radio, and exploded on TV). Before the studios moved in as content providers in the late 50s, reality was the crutch networks relied on, with the notable exceptions of Golden Age live programming.

Now, back to their roots. Knew Rose took one for the team, in measuring what flatline reading her slot would get with a variety format. Hope she's Leno's first guest.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget the death of soap operas, and the additional hours of daytime talk. If we thought that with a new Administration we'd escape the onslaught of trivial gossip talk, we were wrong -- they'll need something to talk about, and it will all be trivial.